Lower Pennsylvania Myths
— Andrew Sargus Klein
The sun shook for a dozen nights, and so did the earth. Cracks spread across the widths of highways. As each shoulder lane parted with the dirt, the subsequent lengths of highway curled at their edges in a slow, crumbling jackknife into themselves.
The sun shook and the air shook with it, and the sun spat seeds of terrified helium in every direction. The seeds landed in the curling sweeps of asphalt with their splay-crinkled guard rails, which curved a little more, and more, until they were bales of highway tight like fists around a piece of sun.
The air shook until the earth’s orbit bent with a new distribution of weight and ghosts and flame. Cities drifted apart with their people, too far to return to another.
Autumn came, then winter and then spring and with spring the highways released and retread their heart meat with the sun’s now-blood. In fragmenting retrograde, the roads rerooted the dirt to its orbit and the underlying thrust of things. The cities refound their corridors, rivers their watersheds.
After millions of years the mountain was a mountain, a shape through the land and almost inescapable.
One by one, semis crashed into the sides of the mountain from bad weather, engine failure, human failure. Each one crashed, caught flame, then fused into the mountainsides. Their ghosted drivers took up residence in the tree line above their old semis and they tried to warn off approaching drivers. Eventually, the mountain’s base was a thick scaffolding of chassis and wheels.
When the earth shook and the highways rolled the mountain started to move with the accompanying orbital lilt. It rolled over the lesser Allegheny mountains a few inches at a time, depressing a new face into the land.
Communities of birds and ghosts grew under stony outcrops. They convened each night and wondered where the mountain intended to go. The steady rain of burning helium started small fires all over the mountain. Rain fell and quelled the fires. Rain fell and it was calm; rain fell and filled the mountain’s wake with refracted starlight.
When spring came and the highway lotus rejoined itself the mountain stopped, gridded, a mile or two closer to the next river valley.
The cloud formed with radio static, car exhaust, and late summer fog—a tentative expression of the surrounding countryside and its moving parts.
It shadowed the the mountain’s rerooting and the highways’ return to kudzu as the earth returned to its basket of gravity. The cloud’s back pimpled with stars and knew there would never be a body without water.
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